Archive for September, 2009

While rubbing his forehead, contemplating solutions for the mess-of-a-student-work I had handed him, my composition teacher helpfully explained:

“Visual artists have a great advantage over us. They can see the whole canvas before they start. As they work, they know exactly where the latest stroke falls in the overall composition.”

His point was one typically made to young composers; get a plan.

Since then, I’ve also thought about what this might mean for the listeners. Sitting there, listening to our work for the first time, how is the audience to measure the weight of a specific event they have just heard. Were that event in the middle of the piece it might mean something different than if it had occurred in the first tenth of the piece. In older music, there are auditory signals such as pedal tones in Bach or Beethoven. In a chamber work, pedals often signal the end of a movement. What devices to we use?

This got me to thinking about the scroll bars for iTunes, YouTube, Quicktime, and other ways we most typically listen to recordings these days. The scroll bar lets me know where we are in the track, greatly influencing how I perceive an event I’ve just heard. In fact, I now find the lack of scroll bars at live concerts makes me a bit anxious (just a bit however, I still enjoy live music much more than recorded).

This raises some questions:

1. Have scroll bars affected your perception of musical form? How?

2. Is that change in how we perceive music a negative? A positive? Just different?

3. If there is a new-found dependence of scroll bars, should live presenters address this need?

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